Biennale of Sydney

Inaugural Biennale of Sydney (1973) exhibition catalogue cover
Inaugural Biennale of Sydney
The Biennale of Sydney

23 Nov 1973 - 31 Dec 1973

Artistic Director: Anthony Wintherbotham, Administrative Director

The Biennale of Sydney was created in 1973 as an international showcase for contemporary art. Conceived and financially supported by Franco Belgiorno-Nettis (1915–2006), it grew out of the Transfield Art Prize for contemporary Australian art, and was intended to encourage creativity and change the attitudes of Australians towards contemporary art. Modelled on the renowned Venice Biennale, Sydney’s Biennale was also intended to open Australia to the world. The inaugural Biennale of Sydney brought 37 artists together in the Exhibition Hall of the new Sydney Opera House, an event opened with fanfare by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. Taking part were artists from 15 countries, more than half from the Asia-Pacific region. This recognition of the links between Asia and Australia, and the showcasing of Asian contemporary art within a wider western context, was visionary for the time. Artists were selected by Daniel Thomas, Senior Curator and Curator of Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales; James Gleeson, an artist, critic and writer; and sculptor Ron Robertson-Swann; with assistance from the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council for the Arts. Thomas wrote, ‘Sydney is making a virtue of its remoteness by confining its choice of countries to Australia’s regional neighbours and to the countries with well-established international exhibitions of contemporary art.’

Sydney Opera House (Exhibition Hall)

Artists and Countries
37 artists
15 countries